Even before the 2018 football campaign started, many expected that St. Joseph’s Prep and Coatesville were on a collision course to square off in the PIAA Class 6A championship game.
That projected showdown went up in smoke when Harrisburg stunned previously undefeated Coatesville, 27-24, in last Saturday’s semifinal.
“I certainly feel for the Coatesville kids,” Prep coach Gabe Infante said. “It’s a tough way for their season to end. But we have to focus on preparing for our next opponent.”
The Hawks (12-0) will take on District 3’s Harrisburg (13-1) for the crown at 6 p.m. Saturday at HersheyPark Stadium.
The Prep hammered District 7’s Pine-Richland, 37-0, last Saturday to move closer to its fourth title in six seasons. The Hawks gained payback for a 41-21 loss to the Rams in last year’s final.
“I liked the way we played in all phases of the game,” Infante said of the semifinal romp at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona. “Everything clicked for us.”
Harrisburg, which is seeking its first state crown, is fueled on offense by dual-threat quarterback Kane Everson, running back Jahmir Plant, and receivers Donte Kent and Rynell Gantt.
Everson has completed 113-of-171 passes for 2,086 yards and 27 touchdowns. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior has rushed 111 times for 898 yards and eight scores.
“He’s extremely fast, he’s shifty, and he makes good decisions with the ball,” Infante said. “He definitely makes that offense go.”
Plant has carried 124 times for 701 yards and nine TDs. Kent has 26 catches for 661 yards 11 scores, and Gantt has 21 receptions for 496 yards and six TDs.
The centerpiece of the Cougars' defense is 6-3, 225-pound linebacker Andrew White Jr. The Texas A&M recruit totaled 22 tackles in a 16-6 defeat of Central Dauphin in the District 3 final.
Behind sophomore QB Kyle McCord, the Prep is averaging 44 points per game. The Catholic League and District 12 champs have outscored opponents by 528-172.
McCord has connected on 175 of 265 throws for 2,600 yards and 33 scores. He was 21-for-30 passing for 301 yards and three scores against Pine-Richland.
“Obviously, from a throwing standpoint, he’s very gifted,” Infante said “But what also sticks out about him is his smarts and feel for the game.”
McCord spreads the ball among wideouts Johnny Freeman, Marvin Harrison, Jack Sutton, Sahmir Hagans, and Anthony Rightley, plus halfback Marques Mason.
Game at a glance
PIAA Class 6A state championship
St. Joseph’s Prep (12-0) vs. Harrisburg (13-1), 6 p.m. Saturday at HersheyPark Stadium
TV: The game will be televised live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.
Twitter: Follow @ozoneinq for updates.
Radio: The Prep student radio crew will broadcast the game on 990 AM.
National attention: The Prep is ranked No. 8 in the country in USA Today’s Super 25.
Go-to ballcarrier: Hawks junior running back Kolbe Burrell has carried 140 times for 774 yards and 11 scores.
Up front: The Hawks offensive line features center Anthony Cerruti, guards Matt McGeary and Casey Stephenson, and tackles Matt Lombardi and Jack McGeever.
Patrolling the middle: The Prep’s leaders on defense are linebackers Liam Johnson (94 tackles, 58 solos), Jeremiah Trotter (78, 44), Myles Talley (63, 42), and Cooper Kim (57, 35).
Back line: The Hawks secondary is made up of cornerbacks Zack Bouggess (four interceptions) and Michael Alexander, strong safety Nicolas Rios (three INTs), and free safety Anthony Rightley.
Pick: St. Joe’s Prep, 49-20.